So… this was a surprise.
On the heels of rampant trade rumors that nearly came to fruition, with his future in Brooklyn seemingly on the table, Brook Lopez put in his best performance of the calendar year, mostly in the second half, leading the Nets to a dominating victory over the team with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference.
The Nets played toe-to-toe with the Wizards in the first half, thanks to a heavy attack at the basket, getting good looks from Jarrett Jack, Mason Plumlee, and Bojan Bogdanovic. Then the Nets poured it on in the third, as Jack and Lopez dominated two matchups they weren’t expected to win.
There were a lot of outliers in this one — Jarrett Jack played above his head, and Lopez put in his best offensive work since the Chicago Bulls win. But if they can get that from him consistently, he might stick around Brooklyn for a while… or at least long enough to up his trade value.
The stats: 26 PTS, 8-14 FG, 10-12 FT, 3 REB, 2 STL
Despite all the trade rumors and confusion surrounding his future, Lionel Hollins still counted on Lopez as his first substitution, even letting him play through a rough three-foul first-quarter stretch.
Lopez rewarded Hollins’s trust with his best half in some time in the final two quarters: not only did he play some stout on-ball defense, Lopez played with an uncharacteristic aggression, attacking the basket off the dribble, getting one emphatic slam dunk, and hitting this ridiculous twisting fadeaway.
Lopez looked more intent on getting to the basket than at any time this season in recent memory, even when posted up on the strong Nene. Then, when given too much space outside, Lopez made them pay by hitting open jumpers. This was exactly the kind of game Lopez needs to play on the offensive end to be his old self. Let’s see if he can keep it up.